Wednesday, 23 December 2009
After the Reformation, the first French priest in this part of Scotland was Simon-Louis Capperon, a refugee from the French Revolution. He arrived some time before 1798, as did other French priests who settled in Greenock during the nineteenth century.
During the second world war the Free French Navy were based here in Inverclyde. Our most famous landmark is the Free French memorial on Lyle Hill in Greenock which overlooks Gourock. The memorial is a large stone Cross of Lorraine which was part of the heraldic arms of Lorraine in eastern France. It was originally held to be a symbol of Joan of Arc, who was from Lorraine.
Close relations between Scotland and France stretch back into history. Historical bloodlines and trade intertwine the two nations. As the Church in Scotland slowly emerges from the shadows once again, this cultural link will help Scottish Catholics reclaim their identity. Most importantly the siege of Orleans (1428 – 1429) marked the turning point in the Hundred Years War; this was Joan of Arc’s first major military victory gained with the help of thousands of Scottish Soldiers. Joan hand selected Scottish bodyguards from the Stuart, Kennedy and Hay Clans. After Orelans came Baugé where the Scots routed the English As Pope Martin V observed upon hearing the news, “the Scots are well-known as an antidote to the English”.
St Joan of Arc loved her Scots, “Let me lead my Scots!” she said at Orleans. Even her standard, depicting God as King of Heaven, was made by Hamish Powers, a Scotsman living in the city of Tours. In addition to this, a Scottish priest called John Carmichael was amongst the victors with Joan. His first acts upon becoming bishop of Tours was to institute a Messe Ecossais for the souls of the Scottish dead.